Obama Won. Now It's Time to Change the System

November 15, 2012 | | The Nation |

Despite President Obama’s important, even landmark, accomplishments, by the time November 6 arrived, many Americans were disappointed with his first term. They expected him to be a “transformational” president who would somehow, single-handedly, change Washington’s political culture. When their hopes were dashed, they blamed Obama rather than the corporate plutocrats’ stranglehold on Congress—especially (but not only) on the Republicans, who acted like sock puppets for the Chamber of Commerce, opposing every proposal to tax the wealthy and regulate corporations as a “job killer,” and insisting that their top priority was to make Obama a one-term president.

Given the power of the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street banks, the insurance industry, the oil lobby and the drug companies, it’s remarkable that Obama managed to enact the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and tough new standards on fuel efficiency and electric plant emissions. Voters rewarded Obama with a second term and defeated many business-backed candidates and ballot measures, like California’s anti-union Proposition 32.

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§ Voting reform. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman John Lewis are sponsoring the Voter Empowerment Act, which would make voter registration easier, thus increasing voter turnout. It would make election day registration the law of the land. According to Demos, a nonpartisan think tank, election day registration currently exists in nine states, and voter turnout in these states has historically exceeded the turnout elsewhere by 10 to 12 percentage points. We should also turn election day into a national holiday and require accessible early voting in every state. No one should have to wait several hours to cast his or her vote.